Top 5 on the Strip: Avengers Edition part 1

Steve Rogers/Captain Amer­ica: If you ever needed a leader and wanted to make sure your every direc­tive was fol­lowed, you employ Steve Rogers to get the job done. Rogers was the first Avenger and the last Avenger and the team’s heart and soul (and mom), no mat­ter the roster.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk: Bruce Ban­ner brings not only his vast genius intel­lect to the fight, but also his green angry alter ego Hulk, who is equal parts mad as he is cun­ning and destruc­tive. The mad­der Hulk gets, the bet­ter the out­come for the Avengers.

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Much like Ban­ner, Tony Stark brings his intel­lect to the fight and usu­ally other toys to ensure that the Avengers will win. Beyond that, Stark pro­vides a place for the Avengers to stay and upgrades for every team mem­ber. Think of him as the dad of the team as well as the brains of the organization.

Luke Cage: Now that Net­flix has brought some of the more back­ground Mar­vel char­ac­ters to the fore­front with excel­lent (but can­celed) TV shows, Luke Cage has a spot­light on him that show­cases his invalu­able con­tri­bu­tions. Cage is vir­tu­ally inde­struc­tible with super strength to match. The Hero for Hire hasn’t joined the Avengers in the Mar­vel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse just yet, but know that when he does, it will be worth the wait.

John Walker/U.S. Agent: An alter­nate ver­sion of Cap­tain Amer­ica, U.S. Agent is a bad dude. Receiv­ing his super strength from the Power Bro­ker, John Walker has gone against Cap­tain Amer­ica and won as well as joined the Avengers and its deriv­a­tives such as Nor­man Osborne’s Dark Avengers. Walker once worked for the Com­mis­sion on Super Human Activ­i­ties and has taken up the Cap­tain Amer­ica man­tle in the past.

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Character Highlight #24: Iron Man

Name: Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark

Alias: Iron Man, Golden Glad­i­a­tor, Bullet-Head, Golden Avenger, Armored Avenger, Spare Parts Man, Crim­son Dynamo, Tet­su­jin, Hogan Potts, Anthony of York, Ran­dall Pierce, Cobalt Man, Man of Iron, Tin Man, “Irene,” Elec­tro, T, Mas­ter of Machines, Space-Knight, Richard Franco, Mar­tini, “Iron Pig” (Source: Mar­vel Data­base)

Affil­i­a­tion: The Avengers, Stark Indus­tries, S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark Unlim­ited, Red Team, Avengers (Heroes Reborn), Illu­mi­nati, Axis, Stark Resilient, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ini­tia­tive (leader), Pro-Registration Super­hero Unit (leader), New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Hell­fire Club, Stark Solu­tions, Force Works, Avengers West Coast, United States Depart­ment of Defense, the Mighty, Knights of the Atomic Round Table, Alco­holics Anony­mous, Dam­age Con­trol, Impe­rio Tech­works (Source: Mar­vel Data­base)

Spe­cial abil­i­ties: Super genius-level intel­lect, which has allowed Stark to amass mul­ti­ple PhDs in physics and engi­neer­ing. Stark is a mas­ter engi­neer, an expert at tac­ti­cal analy­sis and busi­ness decision-making, and is skilled in hand-to-hand combat.

Back­ground: Adopted by indus­tri­al­ist Howard Stark and wife Maria, Tony Stark started life as the child of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who gave him up as an infant. Tony lived life as a loner, going to board­ing school and then on to the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, where he eas­ily topped his class and grad­u­ated vale­dic­to­rian at 17. With the death of his par­ents at 21, Stark took over fam­ily busi­ness and pushed the com­pany to new heights.

While demon­strat­ing arma­ments on a trip abroad to Afghanistan, Stark was cap­tured and crit­i­cally injured by a ter­ror­ist. Tak­ing advan­tage of his cap­tiv­ity, Stark and another sci­en­tist held at the same time designed an armored suit and pace­maker for Stark to use to escape. Stark was suc­cess­ful, meet­ing Air Force pilot James Rhodes dur­ing this time. Stark made it back to the United States and showed off the tech­nol­ogy for the suit to the pub­lic with­out also reveal­ing his iden­tity in the suit. Stark later joined the Avengers ini­tia­tive after mak­ing the deci­sion to use the suit for the forces of good and was part of the effort to locate Steve Rogers, who was still frozen in ice after World War II.

Rela­tion­ships: Howard Anthony Stark (adop­tive father), Maria Stark (adop­tive mother), Pep­per Potts (love inter­est, sec­re­tary), “Happy” Hogan (friend), James Rhodes (War Machine, friend), Amanda Arm­strong (bio­log­i­cal mother), Jude (bio­log­i­cal father)

First Ver­sus appear­ance: Mar­vel Super Heroes

Appear­ances in other media:

Tele­vi­sion: The Mar­vel Super Heroes, Spider-Man and His Amaz­ing Friends, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Fan­tas­tic Four, Spider-Man (1990s ani­mated), The Incred­i­ble Hulk, The Avengers: United They Stand, Iron Man: Armored Adven­tures, Fan­tas­tic Four: World’s Great­est Heroes, The Super Hero Squad Show, The Avengers: Earth’s Might­i­est Heroes, Mar­vel Anime: X-Men, Mar­vel Anime: Iron Man, Ulti­mate Spider-Man, Lego Mar­vel Super Heroes: Max­i­mum Over­load, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Phineas and Ferb: Mis­sion Mar­vel, Avengers Assem­ble, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mar­vel Disk Wars: The Avengers, Lego Mar­vel Super Heroes: Avengers Reassem­bled, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s Spider-Man

Live-action film: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War, Spider-Man: Home­com­ing, Avengers: Infin­ity War, Avengers: Endgame, The Incred­i­ble Hulk, The Consultant

Ani­ma­tion: Ulti­mate Avengers, Ulti­mate Avengers 2, The Invin­ci­ble Iron Man, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomor­row, Planet Hulk, Iron Man: Rise of Tech­novore, Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, Iron Man & Cap­tain Amer­ica: Heroes United, Avengers Con­fi­den­tial: Black Widow & Pun­isher, Mar­vel Super Hero Adven­tures: Frost Fight, Lego Mar­vel Super Heroes – Black Pan­ther: Trou­ble in Wakanda, Ralph Breaks the Internet

Video games: Cap­tain Amer­ica and the Avengers, Mar­vel Super Heroes in War of the Gems, Mar­vel Super Heroes, Mar­vel vs. Cap­com 2: New Age of Heroes, Mar­vel vs. Cap­com 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Avengers in Galac­tic Storm, Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal, The Invin­ci­ble Iron Man, Tony Hawk’s Under­ground, Pun­isher, X-Men Leg­ends II: Rise of Apoc­a­lypse, Mar­vel Neme­sis: Rise of the Imper­fects, Mar­vel: Ulti­mate Alliance, Iron Man, The Incred­i­ble Hulk, Mar­vel: Ulti­mate Alliance 2, Mar­vel Super Hero Squad, Mar­vel Super Hero Squad 2, Iron Man 2, Iron Man pin­ball, Ulti­mate Mar­vel vs. Cap­com 3, Lit­tleBig­Planet, Mar­vel Super Hero Squad Online, Mar­vel Super Hero Squad: Comic Com­bat, Mar­vel: Avengers Alliance, Mar­vel Avengers: Bat­tle for Earth, Mar­vel Heroes, Lego Mar­vel Super Heroes, Lego Marvel’s Avengers, Mar­vel Avengers Alliance Tac­tics, Mar­vel: Con­test of Cham­pi­ons, Dis­ney Infin­ity: Mar­vel Super Heroes, Mar­vel: Future Fight, Mar­vel Avengers Acad­emy, Avengers: Infin­ity War, Mar­vel vs. Cap­com: Infinite

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Property review: Black Panther

Mar­vel Stu­dios, 2018

Black, powerful,beautiful

See­ing your peo­ple rep­re­sented on the sil­ver screen when you are a per­son of color means quite a bit. See­ing them do impor­tant things and be decent human beings means quite a bit more. See­ing them as roy­alty and enjoy­ing pros­per­ity means everything.

Writ­ten well and superbly acted, Black Pan­ther has the dif­fi­cult job of being a lot of things to a lot of peo­ple and it suc­ceeds. Even with the heavy top­ics of race and what it means to be black in the world, there are light moments. Black Pan­ther isn’t with­out humor and it’s deftly mixed in with the right bal­ance. How it achieved this bal­ance is impor­tant because it has quite a few sto­ries to tell in a short amount of time.

When Black Pan­ther was announced, the most we knew about T’Challa was from the comics: He was the ruler of Wakanda — a pros­per­ous black nation in Africa that was hid­den from the rest of the world — and that he was mar­ried to Storm of the X-Men. Also, he was on a quest of revenge for the death of his father T’Chaka, which occurred in Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War. That’s about it. But then some­thing won­der­ous hap­pened: Mar­vel started talk­ing about T’Challa’s ori­gin story and why it was impor­tant to get it out there. And that push began one of the great­est runs ever for a comic book property.

Black Pan­ther is so lay­ered with dif­fer­ent con­cepts that it’s hard to not go down the rab­bit hole too deep. Black Pan­ther starts out with the re-introduction of T’Challa some months after the death of T’Chaka and T’Challa’s ascent to the throne of Wakanda. In swift order we are intro­duced to Okoye, Shuri and the advanced nature of Wakanda, thanks to the infi­nite sup­ply of vibra­nium. T’Challa’s day-to-day strug­gle to rule Wakanda along­side its other clans, keep the nation safe from the out­side world and get involved in the world’s affairs is just one of the lay­ers and that’s swiftly peeled back to show that every­thing on the sur­face is just that: Sur­face mate­r­ial for the more press­ing con­cept of just what it means to be black and free.

The intro­duc­tion of Erik Kill­mon­ger is one of the next lay­ers down. Kill­mon­ger rep­re­sents the rest of the black expe­ri­ence: hurt, angry, bit­ter and want­ing some­thing more in life than to be stereo­typed and aban­doned by the world at large. Killmonger’s story is the result of what hap­pens when we as black peo­ple are not uplifted and left at the mercy of an unfor­giv­ing sys­tem of oppres­sion and what hap­pens when we don’t help our own who are down­trod­den and hurt­ing. And though that strug­gle is sim­pli­fied here for the gen­eral masses, it still speaks to the heart of America’s past and present in terms of race.

On a deeper level, there is the con­cept of what it means to be a leader and a man. T’Challa’s devel­op­ment from Civil War to Black Pan­ther is so detailed that it feels like we knew noth­ing about him before Black Pan­ther. And this is the same with the rest of the char­ac­ters: No one is left out of the devel­op­ment process and every character’s moti­va­tions are addressed in painstak­ing detail. And with that devel­op­ment comes a wealth of stand­out char­ac­ters. Shuri, Okoye, W’Kabi and Nakia are won­der­ful char­ac­ters that add depth to T’Challa’s life and story. And the true scene-stealing addi­tion is M’Baku, leader of the Jabari tribe. Mak­ing a mem­o­rable entrance early in the film, M’Baku man­ages to strike a defi­ant yet relat­able chord in his quest to have his part of the Wakan­dian pie rec­og­nized for its might and resiliency.

And what a pie Wakanda is. From the open­ing sequence of T’Challa return­ing home from an impor­tant mis­sion to the end­ing sequence show­ing the Wakan­dian sun­set, the nation of free and pros­per­ous black folk is a beauty. Every­thing that we imag­ine the moth­er­land to be in its nat­ural beauty and won­der­ment was and is a sight to behold in the fic­tional nation’s depic­tion. Wakanda is beau­ti­ful, lush and vibrant with an Afrop­unk futur­is­tic vibe that we have only seen glimpses of in the real world through the pages of magazines.

Black Pan­ther meant a lot of things to a lot of peo­ple when it hit the screen. Its sequel is poised to bring the same type of magic as well. With the show put on by direc­tor Ryan Coogler in Black Pan­ther, we can only wish that our return to Wakanda is just as fun and impor­tant as our first go around. Wakanda forever.

How we grade

Act­ing: 10

Story: 10

Like the comics?: 9.5

Over­all grade: 9.8

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

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Strip Talk #26: The DC universe could learn some lessons from Marvel

The DC Uni­verse is at a cross­roads I guess you could say. While the Mar­vel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse has enjoyed unpar­al­leled suc­cess, the DCU has all but died an igno­min­ious death. Sui­cide Squad: flop. Bat­man vs. Super­man: flop. Super­man: flop. Jus­tice League: flop. Aside from Won­der Woman, the Dark Knight tril­ogy and Aqua­man, the DCU hasn’t been able to touch the pros­per­ity of the MCU. There are rea­sons for this, but to keep this short, I’ll name just a few.

  1. The direc­tor carousel is too much. There are too many names involved in projects and there are too many of the same names pop­ping up that shouldn’t. Brett Rat­ner. Seri­ously? Zak Penn? Joss Whe­don? With the excep­tion of Penn, all of these direc­tors are prob­lem­atic in their own right, and Rat­ner is an absolute joke who man­aged to some­how screw up X-Men: The Last Stand so ter­ri­bly a whole new movie was done to coun­ter­act it.
  2. Despite hav­ing rec­og­niz­able char­ac­ters, DC doesn’t know what to do with them. Super­man is the most obvi­ous out of them all, mostly because they don’t seem to know how to write Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Bat­man is sec­ond given the num­ber of dif­fer­ent actors to play him. The Green Lantern should have been easy to write, but that flopped a decade ago and they haven’t returned to him since.
  3. Con­sis­tency isn’t in DC’s wheel­house. All of their movies suf­fer from some type of incon­sis­tency, whether it’s writ­ing the over­all plot or char­ac­ter moti­va­tion. DCU can­not seem to get it together when it comes to estab­lish­ing and stay­ing with a char­ac­ter over the course of more than one movie.

With the myr­iad issues sur­round­ing the DC Uni­verse, it’s a won­der there are films in the pipeline, but there are. Shazam is shap­ing up, there will be a sequel to Won­der Woman and Aqua­man per­formed rea­son­ably well to prob­a­bly war­rant a sequel as well. How­ever, there have been other down­turns: Henry Cav­ill is out as Super­man as is Ben Affleck as Bat­man. Jared Leto’s Joker was panned but Joaquin Phoenix may be able to res­cue the character.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I’m implor­ing the DC Uni­verse lore­hold­ers to take notes on Marvel’s Phase Three and pay atten­tion to how a comic book film should be done. It’s made Mar­vel buck­ets of money over the past 10 years. Obvi­ously, some­one over there has cre­ated the Super Sol­dier Serum of Movie Suc­cess and suc­ceeded in per­fect­ing it.

Lyn­d­sey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

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Anime Lounge #16: Kaichou wa Maid Sama

Kai­cho wa Maid Sama wraps up love saga

Series: Kai­chou wa Maid Sama

Episodes: 13 to 26

Premise: Mis­aki Ayuzawa is the stu­dent coun­cil pres­i­dent at a for­merly all-boys high school. She also works at a maid cafe on the side to earn money to sup­port her fam­ily. Mis­aki has prob­lems relat­ing to the male mem­bers of her class so she comes off a lit­tle more than brusque and over­bear­ing. One of her class­mates, Usui Takumi, hap­pens upon her by chance as she’s being intim­i­dated by a group of men. It just so hap­pens that he comes to her res­cue as she’s work­ing so he learns her secret. Thus, begins the saga of Mis­aki and Usui, she try­ing to keep her secret and he try­ing to get her to open up to him. It’s obvi­ous from the begin­ning that Usui is in love with Mis­aki but she’s about the only per­son in the cast that doesn’t real­ize it.

Is it worth watch­ing?: Yes. The humor makes up for the slow pace of the story, but the pay­off at the end of the series is worth wait­ing for over 26 episodes.

Break­out char­ac­ter: Mis­aki Ayuzawa. She’s the lead in this roman­tic com­edy so she should be stand­ing out at some point. Ayuzawa comes into her own by the end of the series, and you see her devel­op­ment as the main char­ac­ter come along nicely.

Fun­ni­est episode: Episode 26, “Too Cruel Ayuzawa & Usui the Idiot!” Not so much funny as it is a great way to wrap up the story in the anime adap­ta­tion, Episode 26 is one of the best pay­off scenes in a recent anime. The way the story comes together to the inevitable finale — which you knew was com­ing after the first episode — is well done and satisfying.

Where it’s going?: This is the finale for the series but the story con­tin­ues on in the manga with a nice epilogue.

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Otaku Corner: Tokyo Tribes Vol. 2

Tokyo pre­pares for all-out gang war­fare in Tribes Vol­ume 2

In a pre­vi­ous Otaku Cor­ner col­umn, I reviewed the first vol­ume of the manga series “Tokyo Tribes.” Tokyo Tribes is the first manga series I’ve read that per­fectly com­bines Japan­ese comic art with the raw power of urban Amer­i­can pop cul­ture, mainly hip-hop and R&B music. When I last reviewed Tokyo Tribes, it mor­phed from a stand­alone work to a tril­ogy, giv­ing way to var­i­ous spin­offs, a live-action movie, and a in-development TV series super­vised by cre­ator Santa Inoue.

A short recap: The story is set after a time where riots occurred in Tokyo where gangs known as “tribes” con­trol cer­tain areas via a shaky truce. Kai of the “Saru” and Mera of the “Wu-Ronz” are sworn ene­mies, whose his­tory sets the stage for all-out war involv­ing all tribes for con­trol of Tokyo’s streets.

On the way to drop off Saru’s leader Tera to work, Mera and the Wu-Ronz ambushed Kai, Hasheem and Steno, result­ing in Tera being seri­ously injured. Kai goes after Mera through Shibuya’s rooftops lead­ing to a bat vs. katana bat­tle between the for­mer friends. Dur­ing the bat­tle, both men nearly fall from a build­ing. Iwao, leader of the Hands, show up with military-grade weaponry, shoot­ing Mera down. Skunk and the other Wu-Ronz rush to Mera’s aid, but Iwao and a few Hands mem­bers inter­vene, demand­ing pay­back for Mera cut­ting off a Hands member’s arm.

While onlook­ers and police are dis­tracted, Mera mirac­u­lously sur­vives his fall, and attempts to kill Hasheem as Hasheem guides Kai to a safer exit from the build­ing. Kai and Tera rush to Hasheem to pro­tect him from Mera but Tera is beheaded by Mera and more chaos ensues. Hasheem, feel­ing respon­si­ble for Tera’s death, attempts sui­cide while a few of Saru’s mem­bers ram­page through Shibuya look­ing for pay­back against Wu-Ronz mem­bers. They find an oppor­tu­nity through Unkoi, son of the Wu-Ronz bene­fac­tor Big Bubba, at a local karaoke bar. While the Saru mem­bers made short work of other Wu-Ronz mem­bers, Unkoi gravely injures two mem­bers, while his per­sonal body­guard Galileo chases the third to the final page of the book. Mean­while, Kai is deal­ing with trou­bles of his own as his father appears deter­mined to remove him from the Saru for good.

Dur­ing this vol­ume, I still felt the awe­some vibe from the first one, but more meat was in the sto­ry­line. Inoue-san gave read­ers a bet­ter expla­na­tion why both char­ac­ters have this venge­ful hate toward each other beyond Mera blam­ing Kai for his girlfriend’s death. Dur­ing a brief back­story, Bubba’s cor­rup­tion took Mera’s moral com­pass and the lives of his par­ents, which made me feel a lit­tle sorry for him since he not only hates Kai but also wants to destroy Bubba’s life as well. I also felt Kai’s pain after Tera’s death since Tera was also a men­tor to all the Saru members.

Inoue-san also showed his spe­cial skill of adding cer­tain pop-culture ref­er­ences such as Tower Records and dis­play­ing ren­di­tions of hip-hop and R&B artists’ album cov­ers. The art­work was also top notch, espe­cially when show­ing Unkoi’s ruth­less side as he fought the Saru mem­bers. It was as if I was read­ing the bat­tle scene from Kill Bill Vol­ume 1. Tokyo Pop’s ded­i­ca­tion to Tokyo Tribes remains strong, thanks to Alexis Kirsch and David Walker han­dling trans­la­tion and adap­ta­tion, along with Stu­art Levy col­lab­o­rat­ing with Inoue-san as exec­u­tive pro­duc­ers, ensur­ing that this hip-hop vision con­tin­ues with­out compromise.

With the Saru in tur­moil with­out a leader, and the Hands and Wu-Ronz prepar­ing for all-out war in Tokyo’s streets, what will hap­pen? Can Kai and Mera tri­umph over their per­sonal issues and make peace? We’ll revisit the scene of gang war­fare in Vol­ume 3.

Bran­don Beatty is Editor-At-Large of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

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Strip Talk #25: Black Panther film is needed, necessary now

Needed. Nec­es­sary. Now. Black Panther’s release was all of this and more in a time when melanated super heroes on the big screen are far and few in between.

Why was the ensem­ble tale so nec­es­sary? While lit­tle chil­dren can throw a stone in any direc­tion and hit any num­ber of white super­heroes, the num­ber of black super­heroes is small. In main­stream comic book movies, at most there are: War Machine, Storm, Cyborg and Fal­con. That’s it. That is, until T’Challa and his nation of advanced progress hit the scene.

The pres­ence of the almost entirely black cast was sorely needed. The pres­ence of a capa­ble black direc­tor was needed. See­ing pos­i­tive images of black folks was needed. Why? Because it’s about time that black folks were shown as human, beau­ti­ful, smart and good peo­ple. It’s long over­due, but the thrill of see­ing a black man run his nation and do the right thing when given a choice never gets old.

And why now? Because for the pos­i­tive side of black super­heroes to do well in this cli­mate, it was noth­ing short of genius and a mir­a­cle. Now is the time for the con­ver­sa­tions sur­round­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion and diver­sity, and Black Pan­ther is the per­fect vehi­cle. Now is the time for black folks to rise above neg­a­tive stereo­types and look at how we are per­ceived, point to Black Pan­ther — a fic­tional char­ac­ter aside — and say, “We are more than capa­ble of bring­ing in box office dol­lars and, most impor­tantly, we are human and here to stay. We have a seat at the table.”

Wakanda for­ever.

Lyn­d­sey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

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Property review: 300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire
Warner Bros., 2014

300: Rise of an Empire late but bold enough to make impact

The first movie in the pos­si­ble pan­theon of tales about the valiant Spar­tans who died at the Bat­tle of Ther­mopy­lae was a rol­lick­ing good time. There were epic one-liners, fight­ing, sex and death: Every­thing you could ask for in a movie about ancient Greece and Per­sia. The sec­ond film had a name to live up to and a rep­u­ta­tion to uphold. While it man­ages to recre­ate some of the fun of 300, Rise of an Empire comes much too late to cap­i­tal­ize and con­tinue to curry the favor that 300 cultivated.

Rise of an Empire starts with the premise that King Leonidas and his brave brigade of war­riors from 300 are dead. Tak­ing place dur­ing, before and after Leonidas’ sac­ri­fi­cial trip to the Hot Gates, Rise of an Empire shows the begin­ning of Xerxes I’s reign, his cre­ation of Per­sian city states, his rise to power and seem­ing immor­tal­ity, and his ruth­less gen­eral Artemisia’s back­ground and even­tual lust for revenge and power. With simul­ta­ne­ous story threads, the film moves along at a quick­ened pace despite being an hour and 42 min­utes long. It needs that amount of time to flash­back for mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters and push the present events forward.

While the look at events in Rise of an Empire are inter­est­ing, quite frankly it was too long between movies for there to be much inter­est in the pro­ceed­ings. Rise comes seven years after the orig­i­nal, which means there’s plenty of time to for­get the orig­i­nal plot, char­ac­ter moti­va­tions and rea­son for most of any­thing that occurs. There are plot recaps at the begin­ning, thank­fully, but it’s hard to remem­ber a plot from seven years pre­vi­ously and remain engaged.

Despite the pas­sage of time, the film looks good. The chroma key tech­nique used in the orig­i­nal is used again and then given a fuzzy sheen. While slightly jar­ring, the sheen doesn’t detract too much from the orig­i­nal look that matched the comics. The sound­track remains the same as well, so not much has changed aside from the focus and some of the stars. Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo as does Rodrigo San­toro as Xerxes. Eva Green — a for­mer Bond Girl — and Sul­li­van Sta­ple­ton join in new roles to round out the cast. The new addi­tions are great and seam­lessly fit the uni­verse. Green and Sta­ple­ton siz­zle with chem­istry and Green, in par­tic­u­lar, is a stand­out. San­toro still com­mands as Xerxes when­ever he is onscreen but the God King seems to take a back­seat, which is hard to under­stand. As he remains the main vil­lain, he should remain front and cen­ter.
Despite the long wait and sto­ry­line lag­ging from time to time, 300: Rise of an Empire is still a fun his­tory les­son for the comic book lover and casual movie­goer alike.

Story: 7
Like the comics: 10
Cast­ing: 9

Total: 36/40 or 9

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

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Character Highlight #23: Pyslocke

Name: Eliz­a­beth Braddock

Alias: Betsy, Betts, Kwan­non, Lady Man­darin, Cap­tain Britain, Lady Briton, Death

Affil­i­a­tion: X-Men, Cap­tain Britain Corps, X-Force, S.T.R.I.K.E., Extinc­tion Team, the Man­darin, Sis­ter­hood of Mutants, Exiles, Hand, Hell­fire Club, Horse­men of the Apoc­a­lypse, X.S.E.

Spe­cial abil­i­ties: Psy­locke is an Omega-level mutant who has the abil­ity to gen­er­ate psionic weapons with her mind. She is a near-Omega-level telepath who can use telekine­sis, telepa­thy pre­cog­ni­tion and tele­por­ta­tion. She is capa­ble of gen­er­at­ing shields and flight.

Back­ground: Psy­locke started life as the daugh­ter of Oth­er­world res­i­dent Dr. James Brad­dock, who fathered three chil­dren on Earth. She grew up with latent mutant pow­ers as a telepath, which were unlocked after a bat­tle at Brad­dock Manor with Dr. Synne. After this, Psy­locke became a model and encoun­tered S.T.R.I.K.E, the British ver­sion of S.H.I.E.L.D. Through them, she learned to har­ness her pow­ers and strengthen her­self. She later became a ver­sion of her brother’s super­pow­ered iden­tity, Cap­tain Britain. While using this iden­tity, the vil­lain known as Slay­mas­ter beat and blinded her. She regained her eye­sight when vil­lains Mojo and Spi­ral abducted her and gave her cyber­netic eyes. With these eyes, she was used to spy on the X-Men for Mojo. After the defeat of Mojo, the Mor­locks were mas­sa­cred by the Maraud­ers and she helped those who sur­vived. After the bat­tle to avenge the Mor­locks, Psy­locke was invited to join the X-Men in a full-time capac­ity and she accepted. In her later adven­tures with the X-Men, she was forcibly switched from her body to assas­sin Kwannon’s body by Kwannon’s lover, crime lord Mats’uo Tsurayaba. Kwan­non, in Psylocke’s orig­i­nal body call­ing her­self Revanche, then devel­oped the Legacy Virus and died. Psy­locke has remained in Kwannon’s body. She has bat­tled the Crim­son Dawn and gained new pow­ers, such as the abil­ity to fuse with the shad­ows and travel with them. Through con­tact with Jean Grey, her pow­ers were mag­ni­fied on a cos­mic level to reach Omega status.

Rela­tion­ships: Brian Brad­dock (Cap­tain Britain), brother; James Brad­dock Jr., brother; War­ren Wor­thing­ton III (Angel/Archangel), lover; Nathan Christo­pher Sum­mers (Cable), lover; Tom Lennox, lover; Agent Michael (alias), lover; Neal Shaara (Thun­der­bird), lover; Vic­tor Creed (Sabre­tooth), lover; Fan­tomex, lover; Clus­ter, lover.

First Ver­sus appear­ance: Mar­vel vs. Cap­com (char­ac­ter assist)

Appear­ances in other media: X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (video game), X-Men: Mutant Apoc­a­lypse (video game), X-Men 2: Clone Wars (video game), X-Men: Chil­dren of the Atom (video game), Mar­vel Super Heroes (video game), Mar­vel vs. Cap­com 2: New Age of Heroes (video game), X-Men: Mutant Acad­emy 2 (video game), X-Men: Next Dimen­sion (video game), X-Men Leg­ends (video game), Mar­vel: Ulti­mate Alliance (video game), Mar­vel: Ulti­mate Alliance 2 (video game), Mar­vel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Mar­vel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Lego Mar­vel Super Heroes (video game), Mar­vel Heroes (video game), Mar­vel: War of Heroes (video game), Mar­vel Puz­zle Quest: Dark Reign (video game), X-Men: Bat­tle of the Atom (video game), X-Men: The Rav­ages of Apoc­a­lypse (video game), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Apoc­a­lypse (film), X-Men: The Ani­mated Series (tele­vi­sion), Wolver­ine and the X-Men (television)

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Top 5 on The Strip: Batman versions

1. Bat­man (Earth Two ver­sion): This ver­sion of Bruce Wayne set­tles down with Selina Kyle and has a daugh­ter, Helena Wayne, who becomes Huntress. Even­tu­ally, Bruce becomes police com­mis­sioner. After a one last adven­ture as Bat­man, he is killed in bat­tle try­ing to stop the destruc­tion of the city. As he was still using his secret iden­tity, Doc­tor Fate of Earth Two changes real­ity to keep his iden­tity secret and lets every­one believe that Bruce died of can­cer at Wayne Manor.

2. Bat­man film — Michael Keaton: Michael Keaton, the first of the film cowl wear­ers, was derided when he was announced in the mid-1980s. No one could believe that “Mr. Mom” would do the trick. And then 1989’s Bat­man hit the sil­ver screen and the noise stopped. Not only was Keaton excel­lent, but also he brought a much-needed sever­ity to the char­ac­ter and was wholly believ­able inside and out­side of the tights.

3. Flash­point Bat­man: In the Flash­point ver­sion of Bat­man, Thomas and Martha Wayne — the mur­dered par­ents of Bruce Wayne in all Bat­man ori­gin sto­ries — don’t die. Instead, Bruce is killed in Crime Alley in their place. In their grief and attempts to cope with Bruce’s death, Thomas becomes Bat­man and Martha becomes the Joker. Even­tu­ally, both learn that in the true time­line, they die in the place of Bruce and he becomes Bat­man to avenge their deaths.

4. Bat­man film — Chris­t­ian Bale ver­sion: Chris­t­ian Bale took a fran­chise that was mired in the depths of medi­oc­rity and down­right unin­ten­tional hilar­ity and gave it life again. Bale made it cool to like Bat­man and the Caped Crusader’s cred­i­bil­ity was restored. It only took two movies, arguably, to achieve this feat: Bat­man Begins in 2005 and The Dark Knight in 2008, all lead by Bale. The Dark Knight Rises was just an added bonus to seal the deal.

5. Bat­man kills the Joker/Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 3 Bat­man: In a ver­sion of the Injus­tice sto­ry­line, Bat­man actu­ally kills the Joker. After the Joker plants a bomb killing Lois Lane, Bat­man cap­tures him and attempts to turn him in. As they’re rid­ing to Arkham Asy­lum, the Joker inti­mates that he will likely try again to tor­ment Super­man and hints at try­ing to kill Superman’s baby. Bat­man snaps and well, breaks the Joker’s neck.

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